62 Comment

  • Closing?! Did you say Closing?!

    This plaza is a historical landmark where George Washington stood by and gave a speech in favor of freedom! How dare developers want to come in and build an apartment!!!

  • washington20009

    We need a “like” button.

  • This is DC, and people with little power love to flex their muscle. Until the ANC involvement in entitlements is diminished, this will be common place.

    I left DC after working as a architect for 8 years, and I had the misfortune of having to present to numerous ANC’s and boards. The process is utterly futile, and anyone in the biz hears the whisper campaign about corruption and pay offs at the ANC level.

    I now live in NY, and the process is much more straight forward. There are historic districts, and buildings in the district require the approval of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Buildings outside historic districts can be land marked, but changes are permitted so long as they don’t adversely affect the historic elements. I worked on numerous projects that had BZA and HPRB entitlements, and the HPRB cases were an all of nothing approach. Either you complied with all of the staffs’ requests (which typically would not allow any changes to the existing building), or they would not recommend approval of the project.

    There is no ANC or neighborhood input in NY, and the population density in some of these neighborhoods are much greater than in DC. NY is an economic engine, and the process does not actively try to discourage growth. DC on the other hand has set up numerous barriers to development, which is why projects like this will not be realized.

    I lived in Adams Morgan off Calvert Street for 5 years, and I spent much of my free time in the neighborhood for the 8 years I lived in DC. I love the neighborhood. But who are we kidding, this “Plaza” is a blight, and the proposed design would definitely be an improvement over the current building.

    • But, but, but . . . the owners let people use it for years, so obviously they are obliged to maintain the property in its current non-revenue bearing state in perpetuity!

      • No, not really. The developer could cover the entire plaza with structure so long as they comply with the zoning regs. Historic Preservation would only comment on how the new building relates to the existing adjacent buildings, since the existing building on the site is a dog and not worthy of preservation. The developers are trying to maximize their yield, while working with the community. If the community is unwilling to work with the developer, they deserve the windswept plaza that’s currently there.

        What the community ALWAYS overlooks is that this diminishes the land value of the property, and the owner of the plaza will most likely sell down the line for less money. That means a development that doesn’t need to push the limit on height and bulk could move in, which in my opinion would seriously compromise the existence of any plaza whatsoever.

  • Exhibit A in the fight against the local ANC busybodies blocking development at that corner. It is almost completely unused as a community space. And why not move the farmers market to the little triangle park on Columbia and Euclid?

    • It’s not a nice space as it is, but I’m not sure how building some new condo behemoth here would benefit anyone but the developers. I’d rather have a crappy park than more wildly expensive, poorly constructed condos that are just as ugly as the Suntrust building.

      • Not used?!?! Give me a break-a-roony!

      • It benefits the 100 or so people who have a chance to live in Adams Morgan. It also benefits the neighborhood businesses who have 100*magnifier effect more customers. It benefits D.C.’s tax base. It makes public transit more sustainable with new riders who are likely to take buses, etc.

        • Yeah, the benefits of development are:
          1) more housing in a city with a housing shortage.
          2) more customers for neighbrhood businesses.
          3) more street traffic to put eyes on the street and help fight crime.

          Sure, new market rate housing will skew high end, but it will pevent roughly 100 affluent people from pricing out slighlty less affluent people who would move to Columbia Heights, who would then price out slightly less affluent people to Petworth and on and on.

          • You left out, 4) one less bank, which are a waste of real estate in the 21st century

          • What about having some empty space to rest and let the eyes have a break from all the commerce? (What is the end point of commerce anyway? More commerce?) Who are the proposed investors? Is it a hedge fund whose contributors live away, say, in China?

          • Yes, that concrete plaza is so *restful* on my eyes

          • maxwell smart

            I don’t think DC has ANY shortage of open, green spaces. There’s like 3 within 2 blocks of this “plaza”

          • All of this, really, and kudos to the person who noted commercial bank offices are obsolete. I haven’t used a bank with an outlet in nearly a decade.

      • maxwell smart

        Um… perhaps because there is a very real housing shortage in DC and this area is a prime place for higher-density housing

        • There is no shortage of luxury housing. And as we’ve seen, DC has not been enforcing the affordable unit requirements in new development.

      • “would benefit anyone but the developers”
        .
        Were the developers selling these units to magical elves that spring up as a response to development? Rail against the developers all you want, but they’re just agents for future neighbors. On the wealthier end of future neighbors? Sure. But people are going to go somewhere. The most expensive housing is the housing that’s never built. And every new expensive unit built is a cheaper older unit not being renovated for those upmarket residents.

      • Why shouldn’t the the owner/developer benefit? Also, isn’t housing/shelter a social justice issue you’d support? Next, it’s no park – it’s a concrete wasteland. Finally, there is presently no housing there so who cares if its expensive and how is it you know it will be ‘poorly constructed’?

        • This is a terrible location for housing–the noisiest corner of a noisy intersection and you know these will be tiny condos with builder grade windows which will make them really noisy. That isn’t how you solve a housing shortage and no amount of intro lectures for Econ 101 can change that. Once the economy cools (and it will–this will turn into a building full of poorly maintained rentals. This would be a better location for office-type commercial development which would help move this neighborhood toward a more mixed economy. With restaurants closing and the center nightlife gravity moving eastward, Adams-Morgan needs to plotting its future.

          • Oh Rich Rich Rich. You lack understanding. Even if (if) these building don’t have perfectly sound proof walls (not to mention who doesn’t expect noise in this neighborhood? – hence caveat emptor). How would a new apartment building not be better than the SunTrust and empty plaza? But clearly you’ve had plenty of ‘intro lectures’ as to economics. So sad that Angles (with non-attentive service), La Fourchette, Millie & Al’s, and the New Orleans restaurant (among others) are gone. Only to be replaced by Mintwood Place, Philz, Al Volo, Lapis, Tail Up Goat, and others (plus a refurbished Kalorama park). Oh, and did I not mention the new hotel, and the condos at the former theater, and the condos at the former Exxon station. Stupid economics. Adams Morgan is soooooo horrible with it’s green soccer fields (two), new elementary school (pending), and big replacements on the former Payless stretch. If only the neighborhood could have gotten some Michelin recognition. 🙁

          • Rick, quality is a different issue than density. Without changes in the code (e.g., multi family housing over X size should be concrete), you’re not gonna change quantity. There is a benefit to dispersing office space, but at the end of a nightlife corridor is not typically ideal. Also, the office vs apartment vs condo decision is for the investor, not us busybodies on our keyboards.

          • I don’t think Adams Morgan is in danger of decline. Yes, nightlife areas are developing and moving elsewhere. As the neighborhood has gotten wealthier, that young-drunk-men-wandering-18th-st on weekend nights declining and moving on will only be a plus for the neighbors. I’m not worried that other businesses, such as better restaurants that have been opening there, and other businesses will take their place. Density in the form of housing for people with money to spend will only help support the new businesses. And I don’t think they will all be rentals – that’s a nice and convenient place to live. And there’s nothing wrong with renters.

            If landlords won’t maintain their units, that’s their fault, but I am not sure how it affects you if you don’t rent the unit. I rent a condo that my landlord refuses to maintain – it in no way lowers the property value of the units in my building or brings down the neighborhood – it still has a huge rent and a attracts great tenants.

          • maxwell smart

            If the whole “this is a terrible location for housing because it’s noisy” held water, than 9th and U would not the be the hottest area for rentals right now.

          • maxwell smart

            Also, if there was a market in this location for office space – it would be built. I don’t exactly see this being a prime location for office tenants.

        • “Density” is such a this-decade buzzword. I never heard it before now. That makes me think it’s a bunch of hullabaloo. Jane Jacobs, come save us!!

      • ‘ I’d rather have a crappy park than more wildly expensive, poorly constructed condos that are just as ugly as the Suntrust building.”

        Then buy the property and under-use it on your own dime.

        • Yeah. I’ll get right on that. And then if you don’t like what I do with it, you can move.

        • PN Hoffman is the selected developer that has also developed the two properties on Champlain .. The lofts and Adams Row in addition to Union Square not to far on 14th.. They will be mindful of what they create on this site..

      • @Ross – why do you get a say in the matter? Whoever owns the property should be allowed to do with it as they please so long as they meet the zoning, historic preservation and any other applicable laws.

        The way so many people feel entitled to a park, that no one actually uses, is wild.

        • Tell that to the people who wanted to put a gas station there about 25 years ago.

          • @Ross, are you saying other non-owners of the property wanted a gas station there 25 years ago like others now want to have a non-used plaza? Was there uproar when the Exxon left (which was ‘inconveniently a block away from the BP that those folks ‘supposedly’ wanted 25 years ago)? Or would you prefer the police station and bank leave to be replaced by a gas station? Clearly a police station and bank aren’t assets to the community. Fool.

      • You would rather have a crappy un-used desolate concrete corner than a building that would bring in an additional 50+ residents to shop in the neighborhood plus the additional bunch of tax money? Why?

        • No, I’d rather have a huge gas station with a strip club on top of it at this location.

          • More tax money for what? To fill in more parks and bring in more bars and honking cars? How about just chilling on the development and living life.

  • Just asking for trouble Dan 🙂

  • It’s just lovely. We have to build a condo there :^0

  • Marx said something about the sound of capital copulating in banks… I think of that when see condo going up. The ceaseless motion of capital investment… sometimes in spite of itself, and certainly in spite of what is good and stable in existing places. Just a few pensees.

    • You high mate?

    • Yeah, Marx said a lot of shit. And then a million people were killed.

      • The new condos on Columbia Rd. (at what was also once a theater) are only half-sold. Big deal. How about a park, but not a dog park? Capital is okay, but it can have a ceaselessness that is more like a machine, and not like human life…. sort of like iPhones.

        • where was the rage about that former theater being closed for many years? or any rage about the former CVS immediately next door being empty BUT WITH THE LIGHTS LEFT ON for months or a year or more? anyone notice the new hardware store there? what about the renovated Potter’s House? or how about the updated Metro Liquor? clearly every development in Adams Morgan has been to the detriment of residents. if only a Harris Teeter would replace an unused roller rink. whatever, next thing you know there’ll be a Cuban embassy.

          • But the condos — which is what folks propose for the SunTrust site — are not the smash hit the other projects you note are. So, as I said, how about not condos, but a park or something else? The goal of life is happiness and health, not endless opportunities to buy bibelots. So a park would be good, which is sort of what the SunTrust site is now.

          • maxwell smart

            What’s wrong with Walter Pierce Park, Kalorama Rec or Meridian Hill? All within a stone’s throw of this site. I don’t think the area is lacking for green space.

  • It boggles my mind that this kind of design was once perfectly reasonable and even celebrated in an era of urban architecture. Creating dreary concrete platforms with little to no natural elements and absolutely nothing to do? “Gee…it’s empty! I wonder why no one wants to hang out here…”

    • If I’m not mistaken this was supposed to be a BP gas station after years as an empty field following the knickerbocker theater collapse. What was built was most likely a “tax building”, that is just something as a place holder to pay the tax on the land. The BP was blocked by neighbors efforts. I think an apartment building would be a great use of the space even if it’s cartoonishly expensive. Welcome to DC where 50 years of neglect and decay (and awesomely cheap rent 😉 have given way to hyper gentrification.

  • binntp

    Bring back the Knickerbocker!

  • Well if anyone’s interested there’s an ANC meeting this Wednesday to see what happens next:
    http://www.anc1c.org/index.php/committees/32-pzt-committee

    I’m tempted to go out of morbid curiosity, but pretty sure I would rather do anything else.

    *also, I noticed this detail in the link above: “…the Commission oppose the revised plans for the proposed development at 1800 Columbia Road NW as failing to comport with the Historic Preservation Guidelines…” Is the ANC calling this plaza historic?

  • You could superimpose photos of that “plaza” taken on 355 separate days last year and it would look no different.

    I try to attend these ANC meetings so I can voice my support for the development, but sadly I am one voice in a sea of naysayers. Now that I’ve been to a handful, I can report that it is the same 20-30 people who are whining and moaning about any change whatsoever in this neighborhood. I swear these people must not have day jobs.

    Also, the Kalorama Citizens Association, some of the biggest NIMBYs around, apparently only approves of their tall luxurious condo buildings. No one else can have them! Makes me want to scream whenever I hear them protest development in Adams Morgan.

    Such is life.

  • I live very close to the SunTrust plaza. I have lived in the neighborhood over 10 years, and care quite a bit about what happens to the neighborhood and it’s people. Over the last several weeks I’ve made a point of walking through the plaza at different times of the day and evening. Other than Saturdays for the farmer’s market, or when a bus is coming, it rarely looks any different. Last Columbus Day, which was a beautiful day, all the seats outside Starbucks, The Diner, Mellow Mushroom, etc were filled. People were using the local parks to congregate, have lunch or sit on the benches to enjoy the weather. I walked past the plaza three times that day, and never saw more than two people. And one was asleep on a bike rack. It is time for a change, and time for the ANC to take a different course.

    • Ditto. We live across the street (about a 20 second walk from our front door) and it would be great to see this developed. I just hope they wait to break ground until after the hotel is done. The area is already a mess because of that with tons of idling trucks and double-parked contractor vehicles. I don’t think the morning & evening commutes can handle these two sites under construction immediately. It would be a massive burden on neighborhood residents.

      • This is probably the best argument for any sort of delay on this (or the only delay). Thank you for bringing up this point.

  • I’m very much in the camp that landowners should do what they want with the property they own…. But, if I ruled the world, I’d love a part of the plaza to become outdoor restaurant/cafe seating. Ive always loved in NYC where they’ve turned weird parts of roads etc. to large areas of outdoor seating for restaurants and bars. This could be a good candidate (after building up of course for some additional density and regulars at my envisioned cafe/restaurant).

    But staying as an empty plaza for a bank I’d just the silliest of possibilities.

  • @bruno: did I say the speculated condos would be a “smash hit”? no. also don’t everyday folks like great food, nightlife, housing (HOUSING, i.e. shelter), and less crime,? – yes (I hope) is that not a factor of happiness?. what is your calculus? is it theoretical or centered in reality? you don’t live here – had you, you’d know of all the great parks (green spaces) very close to this concrete space you are advocating for.

Comments are closed.